Juggernaut

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Trouble came calling at their doorstep.

Unstoppable.

The most valiant of them and the most desperate of all efforts could not ward it off.

So they went to the Enlightened One who sat, enveloped and secure, in his halo of light and looked at them with so much compassion it made them weep.

The Enlightened One said nothing, but gazed and gazed.

Mesmerized they gazed back.

There was so much light from His halo that they were momentarily blinded.

But, something inside opened up.

The Inner Eye, they had heard someone say, in another lifetime.

Maybe.

The Enlightened One never moved, never uttered a word.

Their speculation, troubled at first, stung like wasps, hissed like serpents coiled in the innermost recesses of their minds. Thoughts flapped about like captive birds and words fluttered like butterflies testing their wings for the first time.

Silence from the Enlightened One.

One angry thought lashed at Him like the tail of an angry crocodile whose jaws had been clamped shut, and retreated in a hurry, on encountering His smile.

Silence returned to the cave like bats on the wing, etched dark against a darkening sky.

In the cave, the halo grew more luminous.

After an eternity, the mind reconciled.

The agitated tea leaves swirled on a downward spiral, and settled slowly to the bottom.

All that was left to behold was clear, gold liquid light that threw out surprised rays of light that dispelled the deep darkness of the mind.

It was all about time, they understood finally.

Time.

Unstoppable time that put a halt to the mightiest Juggernaut of trouble.

The Juggernaut of the troubled mind, eminently destructive and seemingly unstoppable.

Repose and tranquillity, and a certain degree of detachment. And time. Together, they formed an unstoppable Juggernaut. A Juggernaut of inaction. Conceived and perfected by the Enlightened One.

Unstoppable. Without even moving.

So, they did nothing. They sat for some more time, till the Enlightened One stirred and lay himself down on the stone bench in his cave. He closed his eyes.

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The peace of understanding settled into their being. Unstoppable understanding of the world.

They hesitated.

They tiptoed out in a file, without even asking the questions that had tormented them a few hours ago.

For they were enlightened now. They knew and understood the truth.

Everything has a purpose and is destined for a natural course of action.

By your inaction,

which is the highest order of action,

you become unstoppable.

Let things be.

Just be.

Unstoppable.

In the cave the Enlightened One slumbered on, in a state of deep consciousness, blessed sleep that is achieved only by the One who knows the doors of Heaven are open to Him.

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For, He is the Juggernaut.

The One and Only Truly Unstoppable One.
Unstoppable

Sepia-toned dreams

She dangled lifelessly, in the light of day, her skirts hanging loose about her feet. Her feet were adorned with silver anklets that had tiny, silver mangoes, in an intricate design, and made a faint sound while she swayed gently from the sturdiest branch of the tree.

Giving up on dignity that eluded her in life and in death apparently, she became a spectacle for all the people of the nearby villages, who flocked to the now infamous mango tree that now bore fruit that everybody would reject.

Only one man knew why she was there. For he had dragged her by the infallible noose that he had twisted effectively to create a sturdy knot. He was dressed in white, the colour of purity and serenity. He had been dressed in white the previous night, as well.

He stood there, looking up at her, the radiance of his dramatic white costume, dazzling and blinding everyone. There were whispers, but nobody said anything out loud and the matter was closed by the end of the day.

The tree was left alone. All summer, no child threw a stone at its branches even when the tree was laden heavy with fruit, groaning with all the weight. Nobody plucked the fruit that turned from a tender green to a mature green and finally a golden-yellow. The ripe fruit fell to the earth and rotted in the sunlight and formed a squishy layer of pulp after it had rained. People held their noses, stopped breathing, as they passed by, for the stench of overripe rotting fruit was overwhelming.

The next year the tree forgot to bloom. The entire orchard was in bloom, the new leaves of every leaf unfurled to change colour with every passing day. Life forgot to visit the mango tree. In a few years, it withered and nothing was left of it except a dying trunk and branches that withered and dropped off, like lifeless arms that amputated themselves.

The dust of time covered the man in white, who lived, unrepentant, all his life.

A sepia tinted photograph remained in his possession and somebody stashed it away in one of the trunks that had all the old photographs of people they didn’t even know.

Peace and happiness eluded him and the next couple of generations.

The story of the woman with pretty feet and beautiful anklets, however, was forgotten.

Except that peaceful sleep often eluded me and in dreams I could see, vividly, feet dangling with silver anklets right in front of me, so close that I could reach out and touch them.

Strange thing.

Mangoes, fruit that every person in this part of the country was familiar with, became elusive to the family. Nobody could make avakaya-mango pickle. If they did, the entire jar would spoil and a layer of grey-black fungus would cover the oil. A nauseating stench, a sure sign of food going bad, would permeate the air.

Nobody could relish ripe mangoes either. One bite into a sweet,plump, juicy, delicious mango and a dozen white maggots would wriggle, embedded in the putrid flesh, in irritation, at being disturbed. Mango juice would choke and rise tempered with bitter bile, and raw mangoes with salt and chilly powder would set teeth on edge and cause such a horrible sensation that spitting them out was inevitable.

And then, one evening, while I was walking in the park, I felt a ball hit me on the head. The sharp shooting pain made me wheel around to tick off the children who were playing ball, rather carelessly, but there were no children around. To my great wonder I saw, at my feet, a little owl, looking perfectly bewildered at its sudden drop to earth. I looked up at the trees and saw the dark nest that I assumed was its home.

This incident was enough for my friend to take matters into her hand. She felt it was a sign. And she had to know what it signified.

Horoscopes are a map to our lives, here where I belong. My horoscope, I refer to as a ‘horror-scope’ in jest, for I have nothing but humour to counter the strange twists of fate that ensure I am riddled with pain, doubt and infamy. Mind you, I am as conscientious as they come. However, everything good eludes me.

So, my well-meaning friend took my ‘horror-scope’ to a seer.

He declared that the horoscope was indeed a very difficult one, indeed. The remedy, he said was difficult to even fathom, without divining the truth. He sat in a trance and held up his arm with his palm over the chart, in an attempt to concentrate, and winced in pain.

‘I see a woman. She does not allow me to see any further. She is holding on to my arm, freezing it in this position and I cannot move it. I am sorry, but you will have to bring her here. Maybe, only then will she allow me to find out the truth.’

My friend, who knew I was very sceptical, asked him if he could do something without me being there. He held on to his arm and said testily, ‘I am sorry. She has to be here.’ He got up to leave.

‘And, oh, please ask her to bring all the old photographs she has. The ones that her grandparents have stored in the attic.’

Surprisingly, I raised none of the objections that I normally would have.

I went up to the attic and rummaged through the trunk that had all these photographs and the forgotten faces stared up at me willing me to recognize them.

There was this haunting photograph of a young woman, that compelled me to look at her over, and over again. There were folds across it as if somebody had tried to crumple it.

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I packed the photographs into a huge envelope and went to bed early, that Saturday night.

My dreams were more lucid and I could also hear the gentle sound of the anklets as the feet swayed. I could count the number of tiny silver mangoes that adorned her anklets.

I woke up drenched in sweat.

Sleep eluded me again.

Sunday morning saw us on our way to the tiny village on the hills, a hundred kilometres away from home.

It was strange, the GPS of the car was on, and yet we lost our way at least three times. We veered off the highway and traversed hills and valleys that were untouched by civilization. Our cell phones refused to cooperate and the signal played hide and seek.

We were supposed to meet the holy man by nine in the morning and it was noon by the time we found our way, finally.

Hungry and tired, we waited for an eternity for him to return.

The sun was on its way, darkness following it, eager to dip into the pool of orange, ready to sink behind the hills on the horizon, when he returned, walking purposefully towards his little hut.

He looked at me and grimaced.

We sat on the mat. He spread the old photographs in front of him and his gaze was arrested by this photograph. He pushed the rest away and my friend hurriedly gathered them up and shoved them into the envelope.

Silence reigned supreme.

His brows knotted and he gazed at the photograph for a very long time.

He then closed his eyes and his palms hovered over the photograph.

This time he could concentrate.

He divined the entire scenario and said that all the inexplicable sorrow that nested in our homes and family, over the generations, was a result of the curse of this innocent young woman.

His voice created a ripple in the pool of silence on which we all floated unaware of the world outside.

‘She wants peace after all these years, and that is why you are here.’

After a few hours with him, we returned in silence.

In the darkness that was inexplicably black, a few fireflies lit up the bushes by the roadside. The stars began to blaze with a cold fire and the car hummed its way on the road, maintaining a steady rhythm.

My friend bought a few mangoes on the way, for fruit sold in these forgotten parts of the world were divine to taste.

Absentmindedly she offered me one and since I had had nothing to eat the whole day, I bit into it,half expecting to spit it out, proving right, yet again, our legendary allergy and aversion to mangoes.

Surprisingly, the mango was sweet and fresh. I relished it, the juice dripping over my chin and onto my saree.

I didn’t care.

After all, this was the first mango that I could relish after all these years.

That night, I didn’t dream of swaying feet adorned with anklets.

In fact I didn’t dream at all.

Elusive sleep had finally decided to have mercy on me.

Elusive

 

 

Lustrous resonance

tanishq

Little cobwebs spin into a bell tower, a lustrous pearl makes up the clapper, I marvel at the intricate work of art, now adorning my ear. I am transformed, powerful in my revolution, for I refuse to let it all happen to me.

Not anymore.

The ringing in my ears does not stop. Sound. Echoes of sound. Words that are an assault on my spirit. You dare question my loyalty? Your taunts probe my integrity.

My integrity?

And molten shame burns my ears, overflowing and scorching all that it can access, even the innermost recesses of my mind.

Not anymore.

I die a little on the inside and the gleam of the pearl I create from my shell shines a little brighter.

Brighter still are the frozen tears I do not shed.

Choking on the thing that clutches at my neck, a silken scarf now covers my wounds and the scars heal.

Closed and clammed up, the vile impurity you heap on me, I ingest, producing treasures with unyielding regularity.

For you show such alarming constancy.

No longer do I recall what I used to be. Morphed beyond the original, I stand proud and tall, cloaked in layers of insulation.

Shed and unshed tears collect under my eyes and brimming, the ocean rages inside, deep and ominous. Storms, gales and thunder are the moods of my dark mind. Flashes of lightning illuminate me once in a while.

My light blinds you and I see you wonder.

Careworn, tired and ready to give up, detach myself from my bay, I could float away, a mere speck on your horizon, an annoyance, an irritant, in your perfect world, but no.

Not now. Not anytime soon. So prepare to hold your fire. Anticipate.

Meanwhile, while we wait, let us play a game. One in which I’m always the winner. Throw at me whatever you will, I take it in my stride and spoil your perfect plans with efficiency.

Love my tears? No more waterworks for you. Never shall you have that satisfaction again. No, not a single teardrop, too precious to waste on you. I shall take the world of pain you offer and top it with my nonchalance. I choose to be dispassionate and indifferent to you, the pain, and the world.

Free from all apparent care, I rule, being the undisputed queen of all I survey.

Just keep trying.

Keep spinning those little cobwebs of deceit.

Well, keep trying.

I laugh a little louder, play the game a little longer, embellish my image a little further and then maybe I’ll concede victory…

To you? Never.

To nobody, ever.

So, dream on.

 

Carefree

Interlinked in stone

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Suspended from the edge, a sinuous snake slithers, its movement frozen forever in stone  as it spreads its hood in anticipation.

Fanning five splendid and distinct heads, it gazes with interest at the far horizon.

A sentinel watching the changing landscape, its only armour is a necklace, hewn in stone. From one block of hard rock, are carved two links of stone that can never separate. Stone in stone, strength within strength, it watches, alive with expectation.

Poetry in stone or a carved mystery portending the future, its obscure message ignites the imagination. One can only stand under the hood, look up and marvel at the remnants of the past.

The temple studs the length of the river like a proud pendant dangling from an intricate necklace. The stone links, unlike a necklace, threaten to test the resilience of the snake. But it holds on, its strength magnified a thousandfold, over the years.

A little known monument, fame has evaded it, and the  years roll by, without a ripple.

Embedded in sand periodically, the temple is  unearthed again. Resurfacing for air,  never bending, never relenting, the snake holds its own in an ever-changing world.

Bequeathed to us by the past, through the centuries, it will be one of the many things we leave behind for a future of amazing discovery.

Maybe then, if we are lucky enough, stone shall speak in a human tongue, and we shall listen, entranced.

 

*Photograph of the Vaidyeshwara temple, at Talakadu, on the banks of the river Cauvery, near Mysore, in Karnataka, India. Hewn from a single rock, the interlinked chain garlands the five-headed snake.

The Things We Leave Behind

Hope afloat

prayer

 

Who even missed the moon on a night like this? The warm orange night sky of the city was dotted with a million lanterns all floating up, bright specks of gold, silver and crimson, reaching the distant heavens.

On reaching the stars, they would, hopefully, make each wish come true.

I wished upon the biggest, brightest lantern I saw at the shrine and walked away, for I had no time to watch its ascent. As I wished, the lantern glowed a deep red and pulsed with an almost palpable energy.

The next morning I went back to offer joss sticks for all the blessings I had received.

In the light of day, my lantern was still moored there, anchored safely to its spot.

It hadn’t ascended. It hadn’t been necessary for the heavens to intervene.

For my luminous hope had a light of its own and the universe could see and hear me and claim me as its own.

Even while I stand, rooted firmly in the earth.

Thank you TJ Paris for the photograph!

Shadow puppet play

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It was a Friday evening. The lamps were lit in the little altar in the nook of the passage between the kitchen and the bedroom. The divine scent of sandalwood, the incense sticks, permeated the very air of the tiny little ‘quarter’ that Radha and her family called their home.

All the houses in the colony had been built according to the same plan and as Radha stood by the kitchen sink, clearing the vessels after the evening’s cooking session in the kitchen, she got the perfect view of the ‘hall’ of the house opposite her window. The curtains were drawn together, a thin billowy fabric from some old sari that had been torn and stitched into curtains by Mahalakshmi. The dim forty-watt lamp was switched on in Mahalakshmi’s ‘hall’ and the feeble light made the red curtains all the more menacing.

Surely it would begin in a few minutes. Tholu bommalata. The shadow puppet play.

Radha grumbled to herself as she dumped the used vessels into the sink. She cleared the particles of food stuck to the vessels, for Adamma would allow them to remain intact even after scouring with Vim and Sabena powder. Radha felt especially harassed, for her family was extremely demanding. No left-overs of the morning were ever to be re-heated for the evening meal. Even if half a pot of vegetable stew was left over, it had to be given away to Adamma, the help, who came gladly twice a day to clean house. Adamma was only too happy to take  away home, the left-overs in her aluminium boxes, for Radha was an excellent cook.

It was time to put the rice on the stove, for the family preferred eating steaming hot rice with pappu-lentils boiled and tempered with mustard seeds, fenugreek, red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida in clarified butter. They were to have fresh brinjal curry cooked in a tart tamarind sauce seasoned with a special dry mix of spices, predominantly coriander seeds and red chillies, roasted dry and hand- pounded coarsely, vankaaya dhaniyaala kaaram koora. For dessert they were having paravannam, a slow cooked rice pudding that was creamy and sweet, food for the Gods.

It began. Dark shadows were now thrown by the dim light onto the blood drenched curtains. Shadows that moved awkwardly, one more menacing than the other two, slowly advancing, hand raised and two cowering, shrinking and sometimes slipping out of sight, only to reappear rather suddenly, catching Radha unawares.

A huge shadow came crashing down on the frail one and a thin scream pierced the air, jarring Radha out of her paralytic state. Wiping her hands on the pallu of her sari, she rushed down the uneven steps of her block and ran up the steps of the neighbouring block.

She stood outside the door, hesitating. What was it to her? Why interfere? A volley of yells from within the doors decided it for her. She banged on the door with both fists before she lost her nerve. There was a chilling silence. She called out Mahalakshmi garu, talupu tiyyandi-please open the door!

Mahalakshmi’s daughter Malli, opened the door. She looked dazed and tried to smile, but her face was frozen and the effort looked rather grotesque.

Malli, having fondly been named after the famed konda malli, the fragrant jasmine flower looked like anything but a flower. Thin, gaunt, emaciated, only her eyes looked alive, too huge and disproportionate to her wasted frame. How frail she looks, thought Radha.

‘Amma ekkada?’ Where is your mother? she asked stepping into the gloom. In the dim light the curtains waved and she noticed Mahalakshmi apparently sitting on her haunches trying to stand up rather unsteadily.

While Malli was asking Radha to come in, Radha saw a hand shoot out, from within the darkness and hit Mahalakshmi with so much force that she collapsed, despite her feeble efforts to stand up.

As Radha advanced, the shadowy figure melted away into the darkness of the adjoining room and Radha rushed to Mahalakshmi to help her up. She held her frail frame in her arms and asked Malli if they had had anything to eat. Malli shook her head and a fresh outburst of weeping from Mahalakshmi spurred Radha into action.

Radha helped Mahalakshmi up and led her out of the house. Mahalakshmi tried to protest feebly but Radha displayed a strength she never knew she had in her. She took her home and placed two low stools, peetalu, in the kitchen.

One look at the unexpected guests and Vani, Radha’s daughter, fetched two steel plates, set two steel glasses down and filled them with water.

Radha made Mahalakshmi wash her feet, hands and face. She gave her a towel and when Mahalakshmi could not use it because her hands were shaking, she dabbed her face dry.

She served them food silently. Avakaaya, pickle first and then the brinjal curry. A steaming mound of rice and ghee- clarified butter. Pappu and appadaalu, deep fried poppadums

Malli choked on her first mouthful and hurriedly gulped down some water. Mahalakshmi ate slowly at first, mixing rice and pappu with her fingers, hesitantly put one mouthful after the other, all the while looking around the kitchen with her big, beautiful eyes.

Radha observed her quietly. How thin she seemed. Her skin appeared translucent and her green glass bangles made a gentle sound as she moved her hand. Her kohl had run, forming streaks over her cheeks. her huge bindi on her forehead made her look like a veritable Mahalakshmi, the much worshipped goddess of wealth and prosperity.

After curd had been served, the rice pudding was offered to the two guests and then they sat on the straw mat. The traditional offering to lady guests- vermillion and turmeric powder with a green blouse piece, plantains and a rupee was given in a tray to Mahalakshmi by Radha, an indication that she was a favoured guest and they intended to honour her presence.

Mahalakshmi stood up to go and looked at her home from the kitchen window. The red sari-curtains swayed in the breeze and for a moment they saw a shadow stand  by the window and move away just as they looked at it. Mahalakshmi looked haunted again as she hastily bade goodbye. Radha wished she could help her and did her best by giving her a tiffin carrier laden with food to take home with her, for him.

These curtains provided the perfect backdrop to the action that continued later in Mahalakshmi’s house. Radha averted her eyes, blocked the shadow play from her mind and after dinner, as she switched off the lights in the kitchen, she noticed that the action was heightened and the shadows moved faster in a macabre dance.

Tholu bommalata. The shadow puppet play.

The next morning, when Radha opened the door to sprinkle water in front of her building and draw the rangoli pattern, she noticed a few logs of firewood burning outside Mahalakshmi’s house. Surely, it could not be that! Then a crowd gathered and in the middle, he sat, looking as lost as only he could manage to look.

Malli told her the rest. She said the burning stove tipped over from its high platform and fell on Mahalakshmi, dousing her with kerosene and the flames licked at her becoming a roaring blaze.

Malli sobbed, unable to continue. Radha relentlessly asked Mall, ‘How did the stove fall on Mahalakshmi?’ Malli looked up at her then across at him and said nothing.

Radha looked up at the windows and saw that the red sari curtains were burnt beyond recognition. All that was left was soot and charred wood of the window frame.

There was a routine enquiry and it was concluded that it was all an accident. A horrible accident. Only Radha knew the truth. And Malli. But Malli was silent. She chose to be silent.

He was transferred to another place in a month. One cold winter morning, they packed all their belongings into the minivan and climbed on board, without even a backward glance. Malli sat as still as a wooden doll on the rolled up mattress and the van rattled away.

Radha could never look at the window opposite her kitchen anymore. A new family moved in after performing the requisite rituals of ‘Gruha pravesham’ -entering a new home for the first time and boiling milk till it flowed over the stove and the same platform.

Mahalakshmi would have done that too, little knowing what awaited her.

Radha could never forget the frail frame of Mahalakshmi as she had seen her last, on that fateful Friday evening. She sometimes saw Mahalakshmi’s shadow by the konda malli chettu– the jasmine tree, when the jasmine flowers were in full bloom and the air was filled with the heady perfume of jasmine.

Mahalakshmi’s frail shadow would ask- Malli ekkada? –Where is Malli? and her hollow, unseeing eyes would brim with tears as she continued softly, Malli ekkada? Malli ekkada? 

Radha had no answer. She muttered a little prayer and waited until the shadow glided away with its familiar refrain, Malli ekkada?  

Frail

Unpredictable

Sarma garu, as he was respectfully called by  everybody in the little hamlet by the sea was a man who took everything in his stride. Nothing mattered too much to him, he was what the present generation would call ‘cool’. If the rickshaw arrived late, he would simply shrug his shoulders and ask Ramulu if there had been an emergency. Ramulu would look sheepish and mumble a denial. How could he tell revered Sarma garu that he was nursing a hangover from last night’s excesses at the toddy shop? A fruity odour that assailed the saintly Sarma garu’s nostrils told him the true story. Sarma garu would smile to himself and wonder when these people would learn.

Sarma garu extended this ‘live and let live’ philosophical tenet to his family as well. When his oldest son, at the age of eighteen, fell in love with the village belle, all of sixteen years of age, he gave his consent to their wedding readily. A more worldly-wise Anasuyamma, the long suffering spouse of Sarma garu, insisted on an engagement first, that lasted a year before the child-like couple tied the knot. The engagement was a trying period for both families as chaperones would give up the sacred duty entrusted to them, because they simply couldn’t keep up. When helpful well-wishers approached Sarma garu  and tried to tell him of their exploits, he would smile and say Chinna pillalu!  Young children! The families heaved a sigh of relief as the day of the wedding dawned. And that wedding, that wedding was a sequence out of children’s make-believe world of play. Bommalapelli. The wedding of dolls. Really, the entire hamlet and other guests were taken aback by the antics of the bride and groom who refused to follow the priest’s instructions. The priest looked to Sarma garu for support, but Sarma garu was laughing the loudest.

The second son decided he didn’t want anything to do with a high school education and happily settled for a mechanic’s job at the local repair garage. The priestly Sarma garu did not bat an eyelid and gave his approval. Children should be allowed to do whatever they wanted. It was their life, after all. When this boy fell in love with the daughter of the head mechanic, Sarma garu gave his consent to their wedding as well, despite the different caste the bride was from. All these are man-made barriers, Vasudhaivakutumbakam, the world is but one family, he mused wisely to people who looked up to him as if he were the Lord incarnate.

The youngest boy, Venkatesh, was the apple of their eye. Anasuyamma doted on him. Sarma garu loved the boy to distraction, for he symbolized everything that Sarma garu had aspired for, all his life. The boy was extremely brilliant in studies, prepared night and day for the civil services, got a decent rank and was all set to become the ‘collector’ of the neighbouring district. Sarma garu was proud of all his achievements and when the boy wanted to get married to the postmaster’s daughter, he gave his blessing. After all, the girl was educated, beautiful and from a vaidiki family. The postmaster was a learned man and spent the better part of his salary on books. English, Hindi and Telugu novels decorated the shelves of their spartan home. The postmaster would declare -I cannot afford to give a dowry to my daughter. My books are all the wealth I possess.

Sarma garu approved. Wherever Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning reigned, Goddess Lakshmi , the goddess of wealth and prosperity was bound to dance attendance!

And so we received the wedding invitation. I decided to attend the wedding with my daughter for I held Sarma garu in high esteem and he was like a father figure to us all. He had been my mentor all through school and college. The muhurtam, the auspicious moment, of tying the knot was at three am, in the wee hours of dawn. A disgruntled Supraja sat by my side, evidently resenting losing out on her sleep. I stifled a yawn and tried to strike up a conversation with the oldest daughter-in-law, now the mother of teenage twins.

It was time for the sacred ‘taali’ to be tied by the groom around the neck of the bride. The taali had two pendants, the pusti and one, each, had to be given by the bride and the groom’s family. There was a commotion when Anasuyamma discovered that the bride’s family had not got their pendant, the sacred pusti. This was not the time to raise questions. She hastily looked for a turmeric root that could be used as a substitute for a pusti, the pendant. The tray with the green tender coconut and other auspicious elements was brought to Sarma garu for his blessings. Sarma garu, took one look at the solitary gold pusti twinkling away on the sacred thread smeared with turmeric paste and the humble turmeric root on the other thread, and froze . Anasuyamma tried to explain knowing well that her husband would brush her concerns aside, saying ‘Paravaledu‘ -it doesn’t matter.

Sarma garu looked up at Anasuyamma and a mad gleam entered his eyes.

A resounding crash of a brass metal plate hitting the floor brought all the conversation to an abrupt end. I had been taking a selfie, at this very moment, with my daughter and this photograph captured our shock at the amiable Sarma garu displaying such uncharacteristic behaviour. The mellifluous notes of the nadaswaram came to a halt and there was absolute silence in the hall.

unpredictable

Sarma garu refused to let the wedding go on. All the village elders, family elders, even the priest pleaded with him , but to no avail. Sarma garu did not listen to reason. He kept saying, how can a wedding happen with one pendant. Were they so poor that they could not afford a simple gold pendant for his Venkatesh? How could his bright illustrious son tie a humble turmeric root around the neck of his bride?

Matters had to be taken into hand now, for the bride burst into tears and sat immobile in front of a thousand guests, humiliated beyond words.  The groom sat statue-like , pale and expressionless. He couldn’t say anything to his father, for Sarma garu was beyond reason and he could not leave his bride’s side. He reached across and held her hand. They sat there for an hour. Their friends sat around them in a circle of support. But what would happen next? It was like the scene from a movie. Unbelievable, unheard of in this age and time. My daughter perked up, all sleep forgotten. She fumed indignantly, asking- Why doesn’t the bride walk away? Where is her self respect?

Sarma garu‘s unpredictable behaviour shocked everybody. How could he have lost it, over such a trifle? Surely, he could have been the understanding father he had always been. What had triggered it off? Nobody knew. Sarma garu never referred to this matter.

The wedding? It resumed after an hour. Since no goldsmith would open shop till eleven in the morning, a gold pendant could not be procured from a shop. My aunt, Savithramma, had a brand new pendant made for her daughter’s wedding that was to be solemnized in a month. She went home in the wee hours of the morning escorted by the relieved postmaster and his family and gave the pendant to them. She said she was glad that she could be of help for, nobody ought to begin a new life together under such circumstances. She had a daughter, she could feel her parents’ angst. Well, Savithramma was the hero who saved the day.

But nobody considered Sarma garu as the villain. Old people can be unpredictable, they said, shaking their heads, and returned home after breakfast and coffee the next morning.

Unpredictable

Affirmations

Today I shall breathe slowly, deeply and consciously and welcome the air into my lungs. I shall be aware of the ancient life-healing breath pattern.

I shall dab on sunscreen and walk in the sun, feeling the warmth seeping into my pores. I shall be conscious of the life-altering energy of light.

I shall look up at the sky, absorb the brilliant blue and  trace patterns in the clouds. I shall draw good luck charms and motifs to help me on my way.

I shall stop to exchange a word with people on my lane, pat the affectionate dog that always looks up expectantly at me as if to say ‘hello’. I shall reconnect with everything and everybody. I shall try anyway!

I shall look for humour in impossible situations and laugh out loud. I shall take time to share a joke and even smile at feeble attempts.

I shall try a new recipe,  read a new book and maybe even a new hairstyle if I’m feeling particularly adventurous. Adventurous? Maybe reckless, even!

I shall order from the menu what appeals to me, and not stop at salads with the dressing on the side.

I shall treat myself to dessert, a huge slice of sinful chocolate cake with decadent ganache frosting. Maybe even coconut cake with cream cheese icing.

I shall dress for myself, regal and resplendent, even if I stand out like a brightly lit carousel at the hospital parking lot. I love the rustle of silk against my skin.

I shall experiment with colour, even if the rainbow resents sharing its hues and tints. I shall revel in it!

I shall write in my journal, record my thoughts, and maybe even inflict them on unsuspecting people. It feels good to share and even better to be heard. Lord save them!

I shall make a new friend and remember to call the old. Maybe even try to bridge the old and the new. And if that fails, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I shall send a dozen red roses to myself and  write me a love note. Maybe even sing me a love song.

I shall choose to be happy, come what may, radiate joy wherever I go.

I shall leave this place better than it was when I found it.

And that is saying a lot!cropped-img-20160504-wa0004.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love is gone…

“Now that the love is gone

What are we supposed to do
After all that we’ve been through
When everything that felt so right is wrong
Now that the love is gone?”

The lyrics seem like the celebration of a love gone wrong as David Guetta belts out this incredibly catchy song, singing with so much relish- “Love is gone”…

And I look at the text of the poem, ‘If thou must love me (sonnet 14),’ that I’m to discuss with my tenth grade students and wonder how in the whole wide world, do I make them understand, and relate to all that Elizabeth Barrett Browning conveys, in her sonnet.

If thou must love me, let it be for nought  
Except for love’s sake only.

Hmmmm. This should be easy. I can imagine the worldly-wise fifteen or sixteen year old students nod sagely and say, yes, cool, love for love’s sake, that’s righteous. This Browning woman really has her stuff clear and sorted out.

Do not say,  
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way  
Of speaking gently,

Yeah, all the right reasons- love her smile, alright, love her look, great perception, lady! Speaking gently, really, is that a sought after quality that appeals to anybody? At this moment I must go into great lengths to explain that soft spoken women are considered very attractive, you don’t always need to be brash and outspoken to be heard and their scornful looks of incredulity will soon make me shut up, I know. I sum up, I’m sure with references to lady-like behaviour and good manners and a few will understand (I hope) and nod in agreement while I’m sure many shall decry- Who behaves like this, in this day and time? So unnatural!

—for a trick of thought  
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—  

Really, Ma’am, how quaint, a sense of ease indeed! But the words – a trick of thought I’m sure will appeal to them. They are taken in by ideas of illusions, deception and other dark feelings.

For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may  
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,  
May be unwrought so.

Oh, yes Ma’am, we understand these lines, people change and maybe this beautiful gorgeous well-mannered lady cannot keep smiling all the time. Another will pipe up- maybe she won’t speak so gently after they are married, ha ha. That fellow is in for it! Serves him right for being impressed by a smile and smooth talk! I can visualize the whole class at this point collapsing in convulsions of laughter and chaos shall prevail for a few minutes. I shall most unsuccessfully try to stifle my giggles that threaten to escape like bubbles from uncorked champagne and fail. After, wiping tears from my streaming eyes I shall ineffectually try to gain control over the class, with a thinly veiled threat of the suspension of the games period.

So, I shall call on the most eloquent student in the class to sum up and he shall, most eloquently say Ma’am, people change and if love has been ignited for such changeable reasons, like the weather, love also shall change, er… maybe like the reading on a barometer.

More giggles.

Neither love me for  
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore  
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!  

Now this shall indeed prove a daunting task for me. In a society where helpless women are almost relics of the past and where women are moving from strength to strength, the idea of woman as a ‘creature’ is a little difficult to imagine. And love for such a pathetic hapless person is difficult to explain.
Maybe I should talk about those clingy insecure people that they know about, always seeking approval and need somebody or the other to bail them out of terrible situations.
Then the images of tiresome damsels in distress and brave men riding on white steeds being tireless Princes Charming going around saving these women will make sense in the context. I’m sure most boys are going to look incredibly disgusted with the idea of galloping on horses rescuing clueless females and the girls are going to take umbrage to the whole notion of being ‘rescued’. The very idea!
How in the whole wide world shall I get them to understand that some women needed to be rescued from their sorry lives and men felt good about themselves being traditional protectors and care-givers? I shall make references to the movies, of course, and that should spark their interest.
And to take the idea further, how will they understand that the woman drawing solace from the man, becomes stronger but this strength makes the man often feel redundant?
Of course, a few students who see this happen in their own family and friends’ circles will relate to it, but a majority who are isolated in their own world shall not even understand.

Can I draw on my own experiences to help them understand? How much of my personal life am I willing to reveal to a bunch of self -absorbed teenagers? Not much, I know. Good sense shall prevail and I shall most certainly decide against it. No point in becoming a mounted specimen in a jar.

I know I am going to lose their attention. The millennials are too self absorbed and lost in their own world to appreciate the finer nuances of poetry.

But love me for love’s sake, that evermore  
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

Eternity? What’s that? They shall snigger. I shall feel like such a fool when I ramble on about ever-lasting love and love for love’s sake. I shall be such a fraud if I say that love lasts forever. To be trapped in a love-less existence is hell. Does love even exist? Or is it a nightmare of our own device?
I admire Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s resilience in facing her tyrannical father, her love for Robert Browning, her voice that rings true when she demands to be loved, for all the right reasons. Such a feminist in the backdrop of the Victorian era!

But there is a niggling doubt at the back of my mind, does love even exist? And do I inflict my cold cynicism on young, impressionable minds?

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So, David Guetta, in all his wisdom, makes more sense to me, at this point of time…

There is nothing left to prove
No use to deny this simple truth
Can’t find the reason to keep holding on
Now that the love is gone, love is gone…

Love is just a mounted specimen in a laboratory, the remnant of the nightmare of an earlier era.

Nightmare

The Eye

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The storm gathers on the horizon, insidiously, gradually.
One moment of blinding sunshine later, you close your eyes to the billowing gusts.
You almost had it all and then- nothing.

The process?
It eludes you, because you are it.
And a state of loss prevails.

Search as you will, it is futile, taken away from you
by force or persuasion.
Having lesser and lesser till you have nothing.

Consider yourself defeated
or in suspended animation
waiting to win
or  indefinitely failing
trying to keep what you hold close, to your heart.

Crying out loud, your words emerge in a vacuum, failing to be heard.

Understood? Never.

Untold misery takes all your attention and you,
paralyzed, to the core,
do not know how to say a word,
being at a loss for words now defines the state of your being
cannot be brought back, ever.

Unable to deal with circumstances, you know nothing anymore-

what to do say cannot understand be surprised confused not notice anything stop expecting to find alive  regret not using time  be lost for words  be lost in thought be lost on  get lost be lost to the world give up for lost  make up for lost time  all is not lost lose yourself in lose out  lost cause  lost and found

The storm continues to rage within and without.

For you are the storm.

And suddenly the clouds are torn apart by the rays of the sun, the haze clears and you can finally see all that is there.

For you are in the eye of the storm.

You are the eye.

Storm